- Saudi Arabia Imposes Controversial Restrictions on Ramadan
Location: Saudi Arabia
On March 3rd, the Minister of Islamic Affairs of Saudi Arabia, Abdul Latif Al-Sheikh, published and shared a document containing regulations for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan that everyone in the Kingdom must follow. According to the announcement, the use of loudspeakers and the broadcast of prayers will be restricted during this period. Additionally, individuals will only be allowed to participate in i'tikaf, or spiritual seclusion, if they provide proper identification. Furthermore, the prayers will be required to be kept short and timely, and the mosques are also not allowed to collect donations for organizing iftar (meals to break the fast). It has also been stated that children will not be allowed to attend prayers in mosques, and iftar meals will not be permitted inside mosques. Many Muslims worldwide criticized the new rulings, claiming that under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Arabian government further attempted to limit the influence of Islam in public life, and even compared it to Tunisia under the rule of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and the former Soviet Union.
- How Iran's Government Recruits and Trains Child Soldiers
IranWire, an independent online news site, has recently published a shocking report exposing the Islamic Republic's use of child soldiers during the massive protests that have been shaking the country since September 2022. The report provides a comprehensive history of Iran's use and training of child soldiers since the establishment of the Islamic Republic after the Iranian Revolution in 1979. It also highlights the regime's use of children as human shields and riot police in ongoing rallies against the government. Furthermore, Iranian authorities have intentionally put children in harm's way, using them as human shields to accuse demonstrators of violence. IranWire also documented one case of a child soldier being injured after Iranian security forces mistakenly took him for a protester in the recent uprising. The report includes disturbing photos of teenage boys who were trained by Iranian security forces to deal with warfare and urban riots, some dating as far back as 2016. Most of the children were between the ages of 12 to 17 and were seen wearing anti-riot gear and holding assault rifles. This report also revealed that Iran's use of child soldiers to suppress civilian protests has intensified over the past few months since the beginning of the Mahsa Amini revolution.
- UK Islamic Charity Under Fire for Urging Followers to Pray Against LGBT
Location: United Kingdom
Recently, an Islamic charity in the UK was criticized for sharing a post on Facebook against the LGBT community. In a now-deleted post, the Facebook page of the Abu Bakr Trust condemned the LGBT community, claiming they conduct “evil deeds.” The trust’s Facebook page also urged followers to pray for “protection against LGBTQ” and argued that homosexuality is part of a “fallen culture.” “My Lord, save me and my family from what LGBTQ+ people do,” the trust’s post said. The Telegraph claimed in a report that the charity’s staff used its social media pages to spread anti-LGBT posts. The Abu Bakr Trust claimed the controversial anti-LGBT post was created by a volunteer without any authorization. They also issued an apology for the Facebook post. The controversy has prompted the UK Charity Commission to launch a compliance case to investigate any failures of the trust to follow standards as outlined in British law.
- Catholic Group Spent Millions to Out Priests As Gay Using Dating Apps
Location: Colorado, USA
Recently, the Washington Post and the Guardian reported that a conservative, Colorado-based Catholic group, Renewal, reportedly spent millions of dollars to gather information and identify priests who use gay dating apps and share those data with bishops and Catholic leadership nationwide. According to the group's website, they are "dedicated to offering resources to Church leaders so they can better care for their priests and faithful." The group has reportedly spent at least $4 million on the project. An anonymous source told the Washington Post that the information gathered by the Renewal project might push some clergy members to go on early retirement or not receive any promotions. Some of the project's participants were allegedly instrumental in publicly outing a prominent Catholic clergy member, Monsignor Jeffrey Burrill. In July 2021, he was forced to resign as secretary-general of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) after a Catholic news site, Pillar, used commercially available data to track his usage of gay dating apps and his visits to a gay bar and bathhouse. A USCCB member criticized the project, saying, "Revealing information that harms a person's reputation without an objectively valid reason – even if it's true – is considered a sin."
- Ex-Jehovah’s Witness Kills 7 in Church Shooting
On March 9th, a gunman in Hamburg, Germany, stormed and fired bullets inside a Kingdom Hall building used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, killing seven people and injuring many others before taking his own life. Among the wounded was a woman who was 28 weeks pregnant and lost the baby due to the injury. Reports from the Associated Press and the Guardian identified the suspect as a 35-year-old German man named Philipp F. He was a former member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Philipp reportedly left the denomination “voluntarily, but apparently not on good terms” 18 months ago. German police claimed that Philipp F. might have been psychologically unfit to own a gun and showed anger towards the congregation. Olaf Scholz, Germany’s Chancellor, expressed his shock and sent condolences to the families of the victims, describing the act as a “brutal act of violence.”
- Christian Leader Blames Gay Sex, Abortion, & Porn for New Zealand Cyclone
Location: New Zealand
Recently, Brian Tamaki of the Destiny Church in New Zealand suggested that Cyclone Gabrielle, a storm that recently devastated New Zealand and parts of Australia, was caused by homosexuality and pornography. He claimed that the storm hit the towns of Gisborne and Hastings in New Zealand the hardest because they have the “highest number of porn watchers in the country.” Tamaki backed up his claims by saying he “hopped on” a porn site to research the “perversion linked to bad weather.” He also said New Zealand was designated for destruction because it has the “queerest parliament in the world.” He continued his rant, saying, “Please, stop watching porn, New Zealand. It’s getting us in trouble. By the way, I don’t watch porn.” In response to these remarks, Rehette Stoltz, Gisborne’s mayor, told the online magazine The Spinoff that his claims were “disappointing, unhelpful, and laughable.”
- Indian Woman's Menstrual Blood Sold for Witchcraft
In a shocking incident from Pune, India, a woman has filed a complaint against her own husband and in-laws for allegedly subjecting her to horrific menstrual rituals. According to the woman's complaint, her husband and in-laws not only harassed her during her periods but also collected her menstrual blood for Aghori rituals before selling it off. Aghori is a Hindu sect known for its extreme beliefs and practices. They are known for their ascetic lifestyle, which involves living in cremation grounds, wearing ashes of the dead, and engaging in unconventional rituals, including cannibalism. To make matters worse, the woman was reportedly tied up and starved during her menstrual cycle, leading to outrage among activists and netizens alike. The husband and in-laws have been arrested for violating Indian laws that prohibit inhuman activities and black magic. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident in India, where many people still believe in superstitious practices and rituals that often victimize women.
- Ouija Boards Cause 28 Schoolgirls to be Hospitalized in Colombia
Prepare to be spooked! Recently, a group of school girls in Colombia experienced a chilling encounter with Ouija boards that left them hospitalized. An Ouija board is a board with letters, numbers, and other symbols printed on it that some people believe can communicate with spirits or the dead. Participants place their fingers on a small, heart-shaped piece of wood or plastic called a planchette, which moves around the board to spell out messages purportedly from the spirit world. According to reports, twenty-eight girls were rushed to the hospital after they suffered from anxiety attacks following their use of the mysterious board game. The incident took place in the Galeras Educational Institution in southern Colombia, where the girls reportedly fainted and displayed various symptoms of anxiety. Although parents are blaming the Ouija board for the hospitalizations, the school's head has urged caution and restraint, calling on people to avoid jumping to conclusions that may cause unnecessary panic. Interestingly, this is not the first time such an incident has occurred in Colombia; in November of last year, eleven teenagers from another school passed out after using the same board game. However, it was later discovered that the teenagers had actually suffered from food poisoning, not the supernatural.
- Saudi Islamic Scholars Debate Death Penalty for Ex-Muslims on TV
Location: Saudi Arabia
On March 2, Saudi Arabian channel Rotana Khalijiah TV aired a show that sparked controversy across the Muslim world. Two Saudi religious scholars debated whether apostasy, or abandoning one's religion, should be punished by death according to Islam. Ahmed Al-Ghamdi argued that people have the right to choose whether to adhere to Islam or not, and that there is no verse in the Quran that mandates the death penalty for apostasy. However, Abd Al-Rahman Abd Al-Karim claimed that apostasy is a grave sin and that it deserves the death penalty as stated by Prophet Muhammad. This debate brings up the question of religious freedom and human rights in many Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia, where apostasy is a crime punishable by death.
- #AtheistDay 2023!
On March 23rd, we celebrate Atheist Day! This is a great opportunity for non-believers to come together and help normalize atheism. To participate, all you need to do is draw a green circle on your hand or on a piece of paper and take a picture. You can also just write a simple post describing why being an atheist is important to you! Don't forget to use the hashtag #AtheistDay when you post your photo on social media, so that more people can see that there are a lot of us out there. But you don't have to be an atheist to show your support. If you believe that demonizing and shunning atheists is not okay, use the hashtag to let your atheist friends know that you accept their non-belief. Let's make Atheist Day a day of unity and acceptance for all!